Text-to-Give vs. Text-to-Donate: What’s the Difference for Your Nonprofit?

Kevin D. Hendricks
Text-to-Give vs. Text-to-Donate: What’s the Difference for Your Nonprofit?

Mobile giving can offer a big boost to your nonprofit, but you need to understand the difference between text-to-give and text-to-donate. 

Wait, there’s a difference? Yep, these are very similar sounding terms for two very different approaches to nonprofit giving via text message. 

Short version: Text-to-give goes through a cell phone carrier and can be complicated and expensive to set up. Text-to-donate points people to your donation page, giving you greater control and flexibility.

Rally offers both, though we think text-to-donate is the way to go.

How Text-to-Give Works

In a text-to-give campaign, you ask donors to give a set dollar amount by texting a keyword to a phone number. The cell phone company collects the donation by adding it to the donor’s cell phone bill. When the campaign comes to an end, the cell phone company sends a check to your nonprofit through an third-party foundation. 


  • Fast: Super fast for donors. They don’t have to enter a credit card number or really do anything more than text. 
  • No connection required: Because the donation happens through texting and is fulfilled through the users’ cell phone bill, no Internet connection is required. 
  • Legitimacy: There can be a greater sense of legitimacy from processing donations this way—donors might think your nonprofit is important enough for the cell phone company to work directly with you.


  • Complicated set up: These campaigns require a lot more work to set up. You need a long-term contract and you need to meet strict standards, like the size of your board of directors and how often they meet, plus your nonprofit has to bring in a minimum of $500,000 in gross annual revenue.
  • Costs more: Because another company is processing and combining these donations, they get a cut. This typically costs more than the standard credit card processing fees for a donation.
  • Takes longer: And because another company is processing everything, it takes longer to get the donations.
  • No branding: This process doesn’t use your nonprofit branding and your name doesn’t show up on the bill. 
  • No data: Your nonprofit usually doesn’t get donor data from a text-to-give donation. Not only can you not send a thank you, but you can't follow up or include these new donors in future communications. 
  • Inflexible: Text-to-give campaigns use fixed dollar amounts between $5 and $50. You’re deciding how much people donate and they can’t raise or lower that amount.

That speed and simplicity is the main reason text-to-give still exists. It works best for well-known national and international organizations. The Red Cross, for example, is so well known they might not worry about educating donors or following up—they just want to bring in as many donations as they can (like $43 million after the 2010 Haiti earthquake).

How Text-to-Donate Works

In a text-to-donate campaign, you ask donors to text a keyword to your short code, and then you send a reply text with a link to your donate page. From there, donors go to your donation page, enter their info, and make a donation. 


  • Easy set up: Since text-to-donate uses your existing donation process, the set up is extremely simple.
  • No requirements: There are no requirements or standards to meet. Any nonprofit of any size can use text-to-donate.
  • Full branding: The process uses your existing website, so all your branding is there and does its work. This is important since long-term connections with donors happen when you tell your story and build relationships.
  • Full data: Since it uses your existing process, you get donor data for thank yous and future communications, including text message campaigns.
  • Flexible: Donors can give any amount (which can be a big win as we’ve seen large donations come through texting) and you can offer more options, including recurring giving, alternate payment options, and more.
  • Cheaper: The only costs are the texting system and your existing credit card processing fees.


  • Slower: Donors do have to visit your website and fill out your donation form, including entering a credit card number. It’s a slower process.
  • Connection required: Because it uses your existing website and donation form, an Internet connection is required. 

Text-to-donate is the choice for most nonprofits because it integrates with your existing donations processes. While text-to-give might be fast and simple, it’s no longer the standard way people buy products and services on a smartphone. Once upon a time this is how consumers bought ringtones, but not anymore. Your donors are already used to purchasing products on their phones by entering their credit card. Advances like the smartphone and digital wallets make this much easier and common.

Here to Help

That’s a quick overview of text-to-give vs. text-to-donate, and while we think text-to-donate is the way to go, we do offer both. We’re happy to walk you through the two options and see which approach might work best for your nonprofit organization. Rally is here to help.

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